Back in Alabama, I’d drive by a kind of animal preserve/sanctuary most mornings as I drove home from dropping my son off at pre-school. It lodged a buffalo, several deer and various other animals and birds. There were a few parking spots alongside the road and often I saw a mom, dad and excited kids peering through the fence.
As I drove by one day, I remember musing over how we’ve gathered ourselves into suburbs and cities with walled off green spaces here and there—be they parks, animal preserves or our own mowed and fenced yards. I found it worth contemplating that even in our tamed, civilized existence we have this innate need to connect with the land, so we bring it with us into our ordered, organized way of life.
But does that work? Is it enough? In some ways, our way of doing this reminds me of the settings of sci-fi films like Logan’s Run and Aeon Flux, where their pristine, well-ordered cities are spattered with uber-tamed, manicured green spaces but their lives are literally walled off from the forested, run-wild teeming nature outside. Life becomes artificial and, at least in the case of these films, self-destructive when separated from the land. It is only when they leave the cities and re-enter the natural world that hope is restored.
Now, I'm not thinking we are at this extreme. And I don’t think suburbs, cities and work apart from the land are innately bad—there’s lots of good things that come from this kind of life, too. But I think there’s something worth contemplating in these films and this line of thinking. Perhaps that’s part of what attracts me to the likes of Wendell Berry and J.R.R. Tolkien (whose destruction of the Shire in Lord of the Rings is said to be a lament of industrialization’s destruction of the land in his native England). Something is lost in separating our lives and work from the land.
So, keep contemplating, David. I, for one, am interested in hearing some more on this quandary.
(Images: from Aeon Flux, copyrighted by Paramount Pictures)